A gay man shopping in Highlands Ranch, Colo., says he was “verbally assaulted” Friday by a Donald Trump supporter who berated him with homophobic slurs in front of his 4-year-old son.
James Shawlin, 44, was returning some stone that he bought from Floor and Decor, a Home Depot-like big box chain that sells tile and wood, to complete a fireplace that he and his partner had been building in their home. The stone appeared to be defective, and rather than returning it to the manufacturer, the store attempted to glue it together and sell it anyway, Shawlin claims.
Upon returning to Floor and Decor, he says, one of the employees instructed him to look through other boxes and compare what he purchased to product on the shelf. Another employee, not aware of the previous conversation, spotted Shawlin and called a manager.
“The manager that came over was not too happy,” Shawlin told Denver TV station KUSA. “You could tell he was not in a good mood.”
He explained to the supervisor on duty that he’d received permission to go through the boxes.
“I was a little firm with him, and I just told him, ‘Hey, you know, my husband and I spend a lot of money here,” Shawlin said. “We’ve been using you guys for 10 years. We have $3,000 worth of stone.’”
That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Shawlin claims that the manager, when he learned that the complainant was gay, lashed out, calling him “the faggot who voted for Hillary.” The manager’s name was not included in the news report.
“That explains it now,” the supervisor allegedly added.
Rather than intervening to stop the altercation, Shawlin says, other customers joined in to harass him for being gay and a Clinton supporter, although he never disclosed who he voted for throughout the incident. One customer, who identified himself as a Trump supporter, even followed Shawlin and his son out to their car.
“What are these faggots going to do to this child?” Shawlin remembers the man yelling.
Shawlin, who grew up in rural Wisconsin, has been out for some time and told KUSA that he’s used to being subjected to homophobic abuse. What made the incident so difficult for him, however, is that his son, Oliver, had to witness it.
“When you have a child that’s so young that doesn’t understand, it’s pretty traumatizing,” he said.
After breaking down in tears on the phone with his husband, George, Shawlin returned home and posted about the experience on Yelp and Facebook, where his story quickly went viral. The latter post received over 800 shares.
Shawlin was less outraged than stunned.
“What is this world coming to?” he wrote on the social media platform. “I am shocked, hurt, and very upset. You see this on the news but to actually be on the other side of it is crazy. I am in shock and in disbelief.”
Floor and Decor, an Atlanta-based company that operates 75 stores throughout the continental United States, is reportedly looking into the incident to take appropriate action. Company spokesman Mickey O’Sullivan told KUSA that he’s never heard any similar allegations throughout his decade of working at Floor and Decor.
Shawlin said his goal, though, is not to get anyone fired.
“It’s not about me getting somebody in trouble,” he said. “I just want to make people aware of what’s going on in the community.”